The Gulf Coast is the ideal place for summer activities. From sandy white beaches to festivals and historic adventures, there is no shortage of opportunities to enjoy the coast. The new book, “100 Things To Do On the Alabama Gulf Coast Before You Die,” by Alabama journalist John Mullen offers a wide array of places and events everyone should add to their summer list. For summer 2022, here are 22 of our favorites.
1. Frolic in the Bubbles at The Hangout
Gulf Shores // 948-3030 // thehangout.com
“An air horn will let you know the bubble machine is about to crank up at this open-air seafood restaurant that also is an entertainment complex, with games and other amusements on the lawn. Enjoy some music and dance at the outdoor stage, which regularly features live music.”
The Hangout is the perfect place for family fun! Known for hosting The Hangout Music and Arts Festival, the venue also holds family foam parties and daily Pirates & Princesses Breakfasts. Complete with a fire pit, outdoor T-shirt shop and giant beach chairs, The Hangout is located right next to the beach and hosts live music, fun runs, game nights, pop-up workouts and cookoffs throughout the year.
2. Savor Delectable Fried Shrimp at Doc’s Seafood Shack and Oyster Bar
Orange Beach // 981-6999 // docsseafoodshack.com
“This shack, cobbled together with add-ons since opening in 1980, boasts ‘the best fried shrimp in the entire civilized world,’ and from the crowds it draws during the summer season, there must be something special about it.”
Voted one of the top 10 seafood shacks in America, Doc’s Seafood Shack and Oyster Bar is an old-school classic. With over 32 years of seafood experience, they offer an array of tasty seafood options, from fried, boiled, grilled and raw, along with daily lunch specials and create-your-own platters. They also have multiple chicken and burger items on their menu, but their seafood is a must-try!
3. Play with the Puppies at Pirates Cove
Elberta // 987-1224 // piratescoveriffraff.com
“This rustic spot right on the water is home to a ramshackle hut that’s been cranking out famous burgers and bushwackers for more than six decades. Perhaps just as famous is the dog-friendly grounds, where pups have the run of the place.”
What makes for a better summer day than pirates and puppies? Bring the whole family — the dog included — for a memorable meal out! The menu at Pirates Cove includes foods everyone will love, such as burgers, pizza, onion rings, fried seafood, chicken wings and bushwackers, among other drink options. The beachside view and live music make this restaurant ideal for a fun family outing.
4. Find the Fresh Fish You Want at Billy’s Seafood
Bon Secour // 949-6288 // billys-seafood.com
“This rustic seafood shop in the Bon Secour River says, ‘If it swims, we got it.’… A visit to Billy’s means a drive through scenic south Baldwin County with its sprawling oak trees dotting the countryside as you make your way to the water.”
If fresh seafood is on your radar this summer, you can’t miss Billy’s Seafood. Their seafood is about as fresh as you can get, as it is caught daily and comes right from the dock behind the store. Billy’s Seafood provides fresh options such as crabmeat, fish, oysters, shellfish and mahi along with several seafood dips and unique frozen items such as frog legs and alligator.
5. Swim a Few Yards Off the Beach to Snorkeling Reefs
Gulf Shores // 210-8721 // mygulfstatepark.com
“There are three snorkeling reef sites just off the Alabama Gulf Coast that are easily accessible from the beach, at about 475 feet offshore … The three sites are the pavilion in Gulf State Park, Romar Beach and Alabama Point in Orange Beach.”
If a summer beach adventure is calling your name, try snorkeling at the reefs offshore Orange Beach! Made of concrete and limestone, these three artificial snorkeling reefs are an average of eight feet deep and give shelter and habitat to Gulf Coast wildlife. Each reef is marked on the beach by colorful pilings and includes signs about the marine life snorkelers may come across while diving. Site boundaries are marked by poles with red lights that sit near the shore and may be turned off during the sea turtle nesting season.
6. Catch a Free Show from the Baldwin Pops
Fairhope // 278-8530 // baldwinpops.com
“This all-volunteer orchestra is available for shows and events throughout Baldwin County, and all the shows are free … Concertgoers break out fancy tablecloths and decorations with wines, cheeses, and a variety of fare to nibble on and sip while the music plays.”
Composed of musicians from all skill levels and backgrounds, the Baldwin Pops are not an act to miss. This orchestra puts on free outdoor events all over Baldwin County. Attendees can bring chairs, food, drinks and coolers as they enjoy a summer evening of classical music. Some even get fancy with charcuterie boards and wine. Mark your calendars for their annual Independence Day event at Henry George Park at the Bluff, complete with a fireworks display!
7. Hike through a Maritime Forest on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail
Orange Beach // 948-7275 // backcountrytrail.com
“It is said there are seven separate ecosystems in the wooded area between coastal resort cities Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, most of it in Gulf State Park … you’re likely to see a variety of wildlife, from turtles to bobcats to snakes to alligators and even armadillos.”
Get out in nature and enjoy the sights of this trail in Gulf State Park! Paved trails and raised boardwalks make up a majority of the paths on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, and there is plenty to explore. Taking a morning or evening hike is the best way to enjoy this trail and avoid the worst of the humid Mobile heat.
8. Enjoy a Watery Free Fall at OWA’s New Water Park
Foley // 923-2111 // visitowa.com
“This indoor wonderland of water is the most unique water park on the northern Gulf Coast. Inside are multiple slides that come off a central slide tower. One of those slides actually drops down through the basement.”
This new attraction opening at OWA this summer is a thrill-seeker’s heaven! Bigger than a football field, the indoor water park features a retractable roof and slides that measure 142 feet tall. An outdoor 300,000-square-foot wave pool accompanied by palm trees and color-changing lights give the park that summer feeling you’ve been looking for. The outdoor areas even feature a stage for live music and entertainment.
9. Reel in a Tasty Dinner at Gulf State Park Pier
Gulf Shores // 967-3474 // alapark.com/parks/gulf-state-park
“This nearly quarter-mile-long pier… is one of the most prized fishing spots on the Gulf Coast. The dock store has everything from snacks to drinks to fishing gear for sale or rent, bait, and ice.”
The Gulf State Park Pier has an activity for everyone. A prime fishing location, it is fully stocked with everything you need for a successful catch. It is also home to Bywater Beachside, a bar and grill ready to serve summer visitors. The pier hosts an Angler Academy on Thursdays through Mondays during the summer where visitors can learn about saltwater fishing from Gulf State Park staff. In July, they host an annual shark week with displays, hands-on crafts, a touch tank and shark dissections.
10. See the Big Fish Weighed in at the Blue Marlin Grand Championship of the Gulf
Orange Beach // 224-1000 // bluemarlingrandchampionship.com
“Big crowds gather around Marlin Circle at The Wharf in Orange Beach to watch huge fish weighing up to 800 pounds or more tip the scales. Orange Beach is home to one of the tournaments on the circuit and the grand championship every third week in July.”
The Wharf Marina hosts the Blue Marlin Grand Championship of the Gulf every year, and it is certainly something worth seeing! From July 13 – 17, you can watch boaters go out to sea hoping to catch the winning fish. Weigh-ins happen on Friday and Saturday and, in the meantime, spectators can take advantage of the ample opportunities for food and fun at The Wharf.
11. Get Your Hands Wet Studying Marine Life at Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Dauphin Island // 861-2141 // disl.edu
“Located in the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay, this barrier island is the perfect spot to offer researchers and students easy access to the vibrant marine life in the waters nearby … The lab also offers daytime talks and walks to learn about the Gulf’s ecosystems.”
The Dauphin Island Sea Lab is full of educational opportunities to learn about marine life in the Gulf. The sea lab offers a variety of summer camps for different age ranges, from grade school to graduate school. Students can sign up for day or overnight camps where they will get the chance to learn about marine life and gather data for the lab, with overnight campers staying at a dormitory on the lab’s campus. The aquarium, which holds 31 individual aquariums, is open to the public for a fee, along with an exhibit hall and several stingray touch tanks.
12. Gaze Upward in Awe at the Blue Angels
Pensacola // (850) 452-2583 // blueangels.navy.mil
“Officially known as the US Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the group that has thrilled millions around the world is based most of the year at nearby Naval Air Station Pensacola. During the summer months, they have open practices during the week at the base, and the public is welcome.”
It doesn’t get much more entertaining than watching the Blue Angels spin, dive and fly in unison at one of their Wednesday practices. Schedule some time to visit the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, which has a viewing area for visitors to watch the team practice. Most weeks, the team will come out after a practice to answer questions and sign autographs.
13. Climb All over History at Fort Morgan Historic Site
Gulf Shores // 540-5257 // fort-morgan.org
“[Fort Morgan] is home to several reenactments annually, and some historic homes from the era remain and are maintained. Young and old can roam through and on top of the breastworks. There are several vacation rental homes nearby, and a golf resort and marina are on the peninsula as well.”
Made famous for its role in the Battle of Mobile Bay, Fort Morgan is packed with history. Interpretative signs will guide you to historic buildings and locations across the grounds. If you prefer to hear from the experts, the fort offers guided tours twice daily in June and July, included with the $7 admission. The on-site museum holds military exhibits and some original equipment used at the fort. With a picnic area, natures trails, a boat launch, fishing area and beaches, Fort Morgan is a perfect all-in-one location for a summer day out.
14. Step Back in Time at Stacey’s Olde Tyme Soda Fountain
Foley // 943-7191 // visitfoley.com
“Since 1929, Stacey’s Drug Store has been serving up handmade milkshakes, malts, ice cream sodas, sundaes, phosphates, splits, tin roofs, and sandwiches. Come set a spell and serve yourself a cup of coffee for 10 cents.”
A gem right in the middle of downtown Foley, Stacey’s Olde Tyme Soda Fountain takes you back in time. The old-fashioned ice cream parlor has a menu filled with the classics: egg creams, sundaes, banana splits, milkshakes, phosphates and ice cream in their homemade waffle cones. Coffee lovers will be thrilled with their self-serve 10 cent coffee. With several salad and sandwich options, this spot is a sweet place for lunch.
15. Experience the World-Famous Ron Jon Surf Shop
Orange Beach // 981-8008 // ronjonsurfshop.com
“It all started in 1959, when the popularity of surfing and a desire for a custom surfboard sparked an idea to open a tiny surf shop on the New Jersey shore … In 2015, Ron Jon Surf Shop opened in Orange Beach, Alabama, on Perdido Beach Boulevard, steps away from the white-sand beach and turquoise Gulf water.”
The best way to enjoy our gorgeous Alabama beaches is with the right gear. Ron Jon Surf Shop has got you covered. The store has anything you might need for a beach day, including swimsuits, T-shirts, sunglasses, hats, beach bags, sunscreen, surfboards and more. Tip: Visit their website and on their location tab, click Orange Beach. There may just be a discount code to use next time you visit the shop.
16. Immerse Yourself in Nature at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
Gulf Shores // 540-7720 // alabamabirdingtrails.com
“French for ‘safe harbor,’ the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is just that for a diverse variety of mammals, birds, marine life, and native flora and fauna in what is part of a dwindling coastal barrier habitat on the Alabama Gulf Coast.”
With six miles of trails and over 360 endangered bird species, the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is the place to go see the rare animals that are native to south Alabama. Bon Secour is a great place for birdwatching, and their refuge trails make for an excellent hike across woodlands and wetlands. If water activities are more your thing, the refuge offers canoe and kayak trails, fishing areas and, of course, the beach.
17. Soar with the Wind on the Alabama Birding Trails
Gulf Shores // 540-7720 // alabamabirdingtrails.com
“This system of trails covers the entire state of Alabama, but there are 100 sites in the Alabama Gulf Coast area. In a paradise for birders, there are six loops in Baldwin and Mobile counties, covering more than 200 miles.”
The Alabama Birding Trails offer trails across the state, with several in our area. Each of the six loops in Mobile and Baldwin counties contain different wildlife. To see herons and egrets, visit the Boggy Point stop in Orange Beach. For swallow-tailed and Mississippi kites, the Cliff’s Landing spot south of I-65 is your stop. Cadillac Square on Dauphin Island has abundant migrant warblers and songbirds to see in the summer (and beautiful live oaks to enjoy any time). If you are a birdwatcher, add these trails to your list!
18. Experience History at the Foley Railroad Museum and Model Train Exhibit
Foley // 943-1818 // foleyrailroadmuseum.com
“The main depot building, which has been moved at least twice, is more than 100 years old (1909) and filled with artifacts from the history of Foley, Alabama. The featured attraction is a museum-grade model train exhibit housed in an annex behind the depot.”
Open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., the Foley Railroad Museum showcases the history of Foley and the importance the railroad played in that history through photos, tools and memorabilia. Kids and grownups alike will be blown away by the model train exhibit, which features a O scale model train display that covers 1,200 square feet of table top that crosses a model town, a country fair and tunnels. The exhibit is free and open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
19. Spend a Night at the Hotel Magnolia
Foley // 952-5005 // thehotelmagnolia.com
“This grand old lady has been welcoming guests for more than 100 years, built in 1905 by the town’s namesake, John Foley. It recently has undergone updates and restoration to enhance its century-old charm. There are only 10 rooms in the place, but they are large and spacious. You won’t have to pay for parking at Hotel Magnolia, and a European continental breakfast is served daily.”
Hotel Magnolia is the go-to spot for a charming stay in Foley. This small, quaint hotel is over 100 years old, and each room is furnished with chandeliers and antiques. The courtyard is surrounded by crepe myrtles and hydrangeas and displays a fountain. The hotel is complete with an outdoor pool. In close proximity to shops, restaurants and Heritage Park, it makes summer vacation easy and enjoyable.
20. Get Back to Nature by Camping on the Coast
Gulf Shores // 948-7275 // gulfshores.com/lodging/campgrounds-rvs
“Campgrounds are scattered all over south Baldwin County and cater to families and snowbirds alike, all season long, in at least 20 parks. The crown jewel is Gulf State Park, with almost 500 sites as well as areas for tent camping. This park offers many amenities including a pool, three lakes, trails, and access to Gulf beaches.”
Camping is a staple summer activity, and you won’t find any better place to do it than in Baldwin County. Gulf State Park is a popular destination where you can hike, bike, paddle and swim in both the Gulf and Lake Shelby. You can even go fishing and geocaching in the park. The campsite has outdoor camping space for tents and RVS as well as indoor amenities, including a lodge and cabins. Other campsites such as Anchors Aweigh in Foley and the Fort Morgan RV Park offer space for those wanting an unforgettable Gulf Coast camping trip.
21. Sip a Signature Brew at Big Beach Brewing
Gulf Shores // 948-BEER (2337) // bigbeachbrewing.com
“This craft brewery is owned locally, offers up a steady variety of draft beers as well as special batches throughout the year, and recently added wine selections as well. The tap room is a wide-open space with roll-up garage doors to usher in coastal breezes during the warm months…”
Sip back and relax with Big Beach Brewing, an open-air taproom in Gulf Shores. Indoor and outdoor seating coupled with a laidback atmosphere makes this brewery the ideal place to spend an afternoon enjoying their selection of beer and wine. For non-drinkers, Big Beach Brewing carries Big Jerk Soda, made in Pensacola. While the brewery doesn’t have a kitchen, you can bring food of your own, have food delivered or check out some of the food trucks present during special events and live music.
22. Take in the Beauty of Weeks Bay Pitcher Plant Bog
Foley // 990-5004 // outdooralabama.com/lands/weeks-bay-reserve
“Beautiful and diverse pitcher plant bogs dot the landscape along the Alabama Gulf Coast. One of the most popular is maintained and nourished by the Weeks Bay Preserve Foundation, which focuses on preservation around all of the Weeks Bay area of Baldwin County.”
This boardwalk trail in Weeks Bay is a beautiful hike and bursting with pitcher plants in the spring and summer. The boardwalk protects the bog from being disturbed, but there are plenty of pitcher plants to see up close. Due to the nutrient-poor soil in the bog, the carnivorous plants thrive by trapping and digesting insects in their leaves. Kids will be fascinated by the pitcher plants and hikers may also see the orchids that bloom in the summer. The pitcher plant bog will be sure to provide a special trip out in nature you will not forget!
To purchase “100 Things to Do on the Alabama Gulf Coast Before You Die” for the complete list of activities, visit reedypress.com or shop wherever books are sold.